Grimm's Fairy Tales

by Grimm Brothers

The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1905
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Source: Edwardes, M., Taylor, E., trans. (1905). Grimm's Fairy Tales. New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 6.3
  • Word Count: 490


In a village dwelt a poor old woman, who had gathered together a dishof beans and wanted to cook them. So she made a fire on her hearth,and that it might burn the quicker, she lighted it with a handful ofstraw. When she was emptying the beans into the pan, one droppedwithout her observing it, and lay on the ground beside a straw, andsoon afterwards a burning coal from the fire leapt down to the two.Then the straw began and said: ‘Dear friends, from whence do you comehere?’ The coal replied: ‘I fortunately sprang out of the fire, and ifI had not escaped by sheer force, my death would have been certain,—Ishould have been burnt to ashes.’ The bean said: ‘I too have escapedwith a whole skin, but if the old woman had got me into the pan, Ishould have been made into broth without any mercy, like my comrades.’‘And would a better fate have fallen to my lot?’ said the straw. ‘Theold woman has destroyed all my brethren in fire and smoke; she seizedsixty of them at once, and took their lives. I luckily slipped throughher fingers.’

‘But what are we to do now?’ said the coal.

‘I think,’ answered the bean, ‘that as we have so fortunately escapeddeath, we should keep together like good companions, and lest a newmischance should overtake us here, we should go away together, andrepair to a foreign country.’

The proposition pleased the two others, and they set out on their waytogether. Soon, however, they came to a little brook, and as there wasno bridge or foot-plank, they did not know how they were to get overit. The straw hit on a good idea, and said: ‘I will lay myselfstraight across, and then you can walk over on me as on a bridge.’ Thestraw therefore stretched itself from one bank to the other, and thecoal, who was of an impetuous disposition, tripped quite boldly on tothe newly-built bridge. But when she had reached the middle, and heardthe water rushing beneath her, she was after all, afraid, and stoodstill, and ventured no farther. The straw, however, began to burn,broke in two pieces, and fell into the stream. The coal slipped afterher, hissed when she got into the water, and breathed her last. Thebean, who had prudently stayed behind on the shore, could not butlaugh at the event, was unable to stop, and laughed so heartily thatshe burst. It would have been all over with her, likewise, if, by goodfortune, a tailor who was travelling in search of work, had not satdown to rest by the brook. As he had a compassionate heart he pulledout his needle and thread, and sewed her together. The bean thankedhim most prettily, but as the tailor used black thread, all beanssince then have a black seam.